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Water Governance - An Old Wine In A New Bottle?

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Aditi Raina (Singapore, Singapore)

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 8: Revisiting water paradigms,
AbstractOld forms of governance in both public and private sectors are progressively becoming redundant in the current times of global integration, technological and institutional innovations, increasing demographic diversity within and between nations, increasing educational levels and demands for economic, social and political dynamism (Biswas and Tortajada 2010). The water sector is embedded within the same scenario and is integrally linked to not only environmental outcomes but also social and economic ones. Therefore, it is not immune to the global changes and requires that governance models be moved away from the status-quo as they are likely to fall short of the kind of response that is needed to respond to the increasing ecological, economical and technological uncertainties (Biswas and Tortajada 2010). Consequentially, recent decades have seen a shift in social-scientific discourse from government to governance. Water Governance as a concept has emerged in the light of increasing complexity and uncertainty in the management of water resources and the disappointing results of previous paradigms of Integrated Water Resource Management and Adaptive Management. While there is no authoritative definition of water governance, one of the more common ways it has been defined as is - "the range of political, social and economic and administrative systems that are in place to develop and manage water resources, and delivery of water services, at different levels of society" (Rogers and Hall 2003). Therefore, governance is about the processes of making choices and decisions as well as the trade-offs. Based on an extensive review of literature, this paper draws out the key elements of water governance to develop and describe the "six pillars of water governance". They are as follows -- polycentricity, stakeholder participation, adaptiveness, social learning, collaboration and bio-regional perspective. These six are linked with, and support, the effectiveness of each other. Further, these are seen to enhance the key principles of effective water governance -- openness and transparency, inclusion and communication, coherence and integration, equity and ethic (Barreira, 2003). The paper then analyses whether the concept adds new dimensions to the previous approaches or is it merely an amalgamation of them, which would imply that this approach would suffer from the same pitfalls as the previous ones. It concludes that while the concept of water governance brings novel aspects to the conceptual realm of sustainable water management, it fails to tackle the feasibility issues that were brought to light by the implementation of the previous two regimes. Therefore, in its current form, it is unlikely to produce any more successful outcomes than those by the preceding paradigms unless it starts addressing the practical aspects of its normative concepts. Barreira, A: The Participatory Regime of Water Governance in the Iberian Peninsula, Water International, 28:3, (2003): 350-357 Biswas, A.K., and C. Tortajada. "Future Water Governance: Problems and Perspectives." Water Resources Development 26, no. 2 (June 2010): 129-139. Rogers, P, and A. W. Hall. Effective Water Governance. TEC Background Paper, Stockholm: Global Water Partnership, 2003.
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